update: should I remove any mention of a controversial issue from my resume?

Remember the letter-writer wondering if she should remove any mention of a controversial issue from her resume (#2 at the link)? Here’s the update.

I’m only technically an update- I wrote in the question months ago about whether to remove volunteer work with a reproductive rights group from my resume. I first found AAM when I was bored at my current job and was perusing the internet for resume tips, and I’m SO SO GLAD I did! Over the last two years, I have sporadically job-searched, making it to final rounds in interviews only a handful of times by tweaking my resume and cover letter style with help from this site, but I’m finally doing better than that.

I needed an internship or a new job related to public health to satisfy a practical experience requirement for my Master’s program — in the spring, I landed a paid internship with the help of AAM and the site’s amazing commentariat! Most of the students in my program ended up doing something through their own jobs or taking an unpaid work opportunity to fill that requirement, so pay was just icing on the cake! My supervisors there said they were impressed with my cover letter, which was better than ever because I had narrowed down the opportunities I applied for to the job descriptions I really connected with. My summer was awesome, but the internship was only three months. I was able to negotiate part-time at my admin position during that time (working two jobs sucks!) and came back to full time in August, job-searching with a vengeance.

With your help, I practiced my interview style and answers to common questions. This month, I had perfect first and second interviews for an admin position under a government health agency. For the first time I interviewed with a panel of three people, and though I was nervous, I had no trouble drumming up examples to discuss how my relevant experience would translate to that position. I was so well-prepared, I felt like I had an AAM-advice goblin on my shoulder keeping me level-headed the whole time. The panel loved that I asked questions about culture observations from walking through the office, and I got to informally chat with people who hold the same position about their day-to-day tasks and their feel for the department. I told the division chief I spoke to in the second interview that I’ve never had a more accurate picture of a job during a hiring process before, which they appreciated!

I’m about to accept an offer doubling my current pay, and I am SO happy I teared up reading the email. THANK YOU- I could not have gotten here without your help.

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. OP*

    I’m the update! I realized I forgot to say something important in my email to Alison, so I’ll update my update!

    The job I got, while doubling my salary, is not my dream job. I’m fairly young, and it’s basically taken until the last 4 months to sink in that my career will not be a linear path to success and abundant happiness. I am excited that this job will enable me to pay my bills and rent, and to stop taking student loans/pay down the burden I already have. I’m also beyond happy to have bettered my interviewing/candidacy skills for whenever it is that I chose to look for another job.

    I’m picking up a long commute in a very traffic-y area that is particularly bad surrounding the 8:30-5 hours I’ll be at work in exchange, but I’ve decided that it’s worth it for the experience I’ll be getting. I’m not dying to do the job duties I’ll be filling, but I am excited about the networking opportunities that working for this particular agency will offer me as well as the ability to learn duties that are a part of entry-level research assistant positions in public health (my ultimate goal). Just like Alison has said many times, the road to get to career nirvana is long, and the dream job might not exist- but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the journey, or the opportunities your job(s) afford you!

    Tl;dr – You don’t have to have a dream job to be happy at work. Hang in there guys- because good, targeted job searches do pay off eventually! I’d been casually/seriously searching for almost 2 years before I really took AAM’s good advice and cranked up my effort.

    1. Bonky*

      Congratulations! And that’s a life-lesson worth learning right there. What a lovely update to read at Christmas!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Congrats, OP! I also love the phrase “advice goblin” (it’s the most positive goblin I’ve seen!—no offense intended to other goblin fans). I’m also so glad that you’ve felt so much more empowered in your job search and are getting a chance to get the lay of the land and pay your bills without having to dash between two jobs. Please let us know how things continue to evolve for you!

    3. Jeanne*

      You can’t usually get a perfect job when you’re new in your career. But a job you can do well at is a good start and can be a stepping stone. Good for you.

      P.S. I wish you had said if you removed your controversial thing or not to get this job or for your internship. But you don’t have to tell us.

    4. Less anonymous than before*

      Your attitude and the way you are looking at this is fabulous and is what will help you along the way. Great job. Did you end up leaving the volunteer work on your resume after-all? Did you find it to be a problem or did you realize you probably were overthinking it a bit as Alison said in your original letter?

      Best luck on your career and following the path to your goals!!

  2. Public health researcher*

    I’m really glad to read this update, and to hear you have got your foot in the door for your chosen career. As you’ll see from my name, I am a researcher in public health, and I also actually faced a similar dilemma years ago, as I have been involved in advocacy for abortion decriminalisation since my undergrad days (it’s still illegal where I live). But I decided that I would leave it on CV as I didn’t want to work anywhere where this wouldn’t be seen as a good thing, and that has served me well. And now I’ve much more experience, it’s only a minor line among my other experience on my CV, but I still leave it in as I’m proud of it (& still do it). And as I work in academia, it’s common to list *everything* on your CV (mine is now 12 pages, which is on the short side compared to my peeers).

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that even though you’re not doing your dream job, getting a job in an agency where you want to work is a great idea, and as you show your competency, you’ll likely be given more opportunities to undertake more tasks that are more relevant to your degree. And if relevant jobs open up in the agency, they will be more likely to consider you if you’ve shown you’re competent, that you fit in, and work hard, especially as you’ll have good understanding of their processes and programs. And all this will be very useful when you want to get into research – people who’ve worked in the field and know how to make things work *in practice* make the best researchers, imho (at that’s my hiring experience).

  3. Former Urban Achiever*

    I wonder about his same issue. I work for probably the same or a similar organization in a very conservative area. My position is related to the ACA and grant funded which means I will be looking for a new job soon. The job has a lot of transferable skills so I hope the organization isn’t an issue for potential employers. I do a lot of outreach and deal with a lot of hostile people so at the very least it demonstrates my ability to handle those issues.

  4. ali*

    I love reading updates like this! Almost makes me tear up reading that you teared up with the offer, OP! Love it!

  5. Catalin*

    $10 to whoever creates the AAM advice goblin: must fit in a laptop bag and offer the following phrases (at a minimum).
    “Noooo don’t do that”
    “Your manager isn’t managing”
    “Your boss is a jerk”
    “You’re probably over thinking this”
    “Here are some helpful links”
    “Work!”(Hamiltonian inflection)

    1. Candi*

      It should also say, “Aack!! Don’t do that!” and “Here’s a script”

      And be available in plush. :)

    2. OP*

      I love that my update spawned this- I don’t want to go all “fetch” on the AAM commentariat, but can this be a thing? haha

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